You might have seen children working and living in the roads and streets of Kathmandu valley. How did you feel when you have seen them? Have you ever felt sympathy on them? Have you ever thought about their life? If not, you might have certainly heard the very popular word Khate? Khate is a Nepali term used for addressing street children and youths.
Street children refer to children who live and work on the streets of a city. They are basically deprived of family care and protection. Most children on the streets are between the ages of about 5 and 17 years old, and their population between different cities is varied. Due to poverty, unequal distribution of resources, unemployment, ignorance, domestic violence and perversions prevailing in the society, children are seen fleeing from their homes and coming to the streets.
As per CBS 2001 AD, total population of Nepal was 2, 31, 51, 423. Among the population, the total number of children below 14 years was 90, 98, 201 (39.30%), which includes 46, 38, 000 (20.03%) boys and 44,60, 201 (19.27%) girls. The difference between population of boys and girls below 14 years is of 0.67%. (CCWB, 2008)The book entitled “The State of the Rights of the Child in Nepal 2001” published by CIWIN showed 5000 children are working and living on the streets. It is alarming to note that each year at least 500 children are found to appear on roads of Kathmandu Valley from different districts of Nepal. (CIWIN, 2006).
There are a number of reasons behind children coming to streets. Family tension, family violence, lack of protection from parents and guardians, child abuse and brutal torture by family members and others, misguidance, wrong motivation, attraction for the city, hatred from parent or step father or mother, increment of migration and urbanization, exploitation from guardians, search for new job and escaping after theft or misdeed are prominent reasons for children coming to streets.
CPCS, an organization in Kathmandu Valley working for the welfare of children carried out a survey with street children in 2007. The survey shows 65% children leave their houses in search of employment, 54% children come to Kathmandu with influence from others, 55% to visit Kathmandu, 51% come to streets due to domestic violence, 27% due to lack of food and 12% come to due to political reason.
UNICEF, a giant organization working for the welfare of children categorized street children into two: (1) Children on the street are those engaged in some kind of economic activity ranging from begging to vending. (2) Children of the street actually live on the street (or outside of a normal family environment).
Life of Street children is so miserable and worse. They are found to be working as plastic gatherers (rag pickers), beggars, tempo boys and street vendors to sell newspapers, biscuits, etc. They are also reported to be involving in washing dishes in hotels and restaurants, carrying water and working as construction labourer. They mostly suffer from different types of violence like sexual, moral and physical, drugs addiction, social exclusion, health problems, malnutrition delinquency, criminality, alcoholism, and starvation.
There are more than a dozen organizations working for street children in the valley only. All the organizations focus on the same target groups, i. e. street children. However, the plight of street children is worse except some progress. This is evident from the fact that children are still living and working on the streets in the valley. What had happened is that duplication seems to have taken place. That is to say, more than one organization has same project location and same target group of street children. It is better for the organizations to consider whether the duplication is taking place while locating and implementing their programs. Central child welfare board (CCWB) should actively monitor such programs targeted for street children so that such duplication can be avoided. Then only, we can rehabilitate the street children and provide them their rights and facilities required for their overall development.
At the moment the country is drafting permanent constitution of Federal Democratic Republic Nepal, voices for rights of street children and pitiable condition of street children should be addressed and included. This is high time concerning stakeholders, government line agencies, non-government organizations (NGOs), community based organizations (CBOs) and international non-government agencies including CCWB need to join their hands together to ensure rights of children in the constitution. Let New Constitution of New Nepal be drafted ensuring all rights of children.
Note: The article has been published in The Young Guys Weekly.